A new study has found that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, at least as far as lab rats are concerned.
The experiment, conducted by researchers at Connecticut College, involved hungry lab rats that were placed in a maze where rice cakes were at the end. The experiment was repeated with Oreos at the finish line. The rats were allowed to freely roam the maze as they wanted. The animals appeared to share the same sweet tooth as humans have, choosing Oreos over rice cakes.
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In a separate test, rats received injections of cocaine or morphine. The researchers then tested the brain's reaction to the drugs and compared to the brain's reaction while they were consuming Oreos.
The conclusion of the study was eating the classic cookies activated more neurons in the brain's "pleasure center" than illicit drugs like cocaine, according to researchers, NBC News reported
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Connecticut College's Neuroscience Assistant Professor Joseph Schroeder told NBC News. "That may be one reason people have trouble staying away from them and it may be contributing to the obesity epidemic."
The rats were subsequently allowed to freely wander the maze again, however, this time the rats were divided into two groups. One group was exposed to cocaine, while the other was exposed to Oreos.
According to the research team, the rats on the Oreo side congregated near the cookies for about the same amount of time as the other group lingered near the drugs.
"These findings suggest that high fat/sugar foods and drugs of abuse trigger brain addictive processes to the same degree and lend support to the hypothesis that maladaptive eating behaviors contributing to obesity can be compared to drug addiction," Schroeder's team said in a statement, NBC News reported.
The research team will present the study to the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego next month.
"It really just speaks to the effects that high fat and high sugar foods and foods in general, can have on your body," Lauren Cameron, a student at Connecticut College who worked on the study, told NBC News. "The way they react in your brain, that was really surprising for me."
"I haven't touched an Oreo since doing this experiment," Schroeder said, noting that like humans, the lab rats also appeared to prefer the cookie's creamy center, which they ate first.
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